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Exploring Aesthetic Ideals of Gameplay

Sus Lundgren1 Karl J. Bergström2 Staffan Björk2,3


1 2 3
Interaction Design Collegium Game Studio Department of CS&E
Department of CS&E Interactive Institute Gothenburg University
Chalmers University of SE-164 26 Kista, SWEDEN SE-412 96 Göteborg, Sweden
Technology
SE-412 96 Göteborg, Sweden
sus.lundgren@chalmers.se karlb@tii.se staffan.bjork@chalmers.se
ABSTRACT and encourages a raised awareness between the objective
This paper describes a theoretical exploration of aesthetics and subjective properties of the artifact.
ideals of gameplay. Starting from observations about the
game artifact, several gameplay properties that can affect Given the trans-medial nature of games, we have chosen to
the aesthetical experience are identified, e.g. tempting analyze several types of games, agreeing with the view that
challenges, cohesion, and gamer interaction. These that understanding gameplay from an aesthetic point of
properties are then used to describe several aesthetical view is “best pursued by understanding a design in relation
ideals of gameplay, e.g. emergence, reenactment, to other contemporary and historical designs” [22]. Card
meditative, and camaraderie. The properties and ideals and board games are slightly over-emphasized only because
provide concepts for how games attribute aesthetical value gameplay often is easier to discern in them.
to gameplay design and how they distinguish their own
Defining Gameplay
preferences from inherent qualities of a game artifact.
Before turning to gameplay aesthetics it is proper to clarify
Author Keywords how the concept gameplay will be used in this paper.
Gameplay, Aesthetics Gameplay has been described as “a consequence of the
game rules and the dispositions of the game players” [16],
INTRODUCTION and as including “the possibilities, results and the reasons
What makes a game well-designed or “good”? Is it possible for the players to interact with the game” [3]. These
to suggest “good” games to others even if oneself does not descriptions allow for a wide range of activities including
find the games entertaining? Trying to answer the first free play, “pure” roleplaying, machinima creation, and
question is difficult – or impossible, if one wishes to allow physics testing. Rather than including all these we limit
for different subjective views – whilst the second question them to intentional goal-driven activities and refer to this as
suggests that people have concepts of good games that they gaming (similar to what has been proposed in [4]). Hence,
do not think are fun to play. here the term gameplay relates to the interplay between a
In this paper we explore these questions through theoretical game’s rules and the player’s interaction with them which,
reasoning on gameplay aesthetics. We see this subfield of in combination lead to an aesthetic of gameplay.
aesthetics as one of many possible fields that together create
the overall aesthetics of a specific game, but the one which AESTHETICS
unarguably affects all games. This is in line with seeing that Aesthetics was first explicitly described in 1750 [28], as the
both “virtual” rules and “real” themes affect a game field that described what could be experienced and thus
experience [16], and that games are trans-medial, i.e. known via the senses. Although proposed as a new science,
independent of the media it is instantiated in. Although this the notion of aesthetics was quickly connected to the
paper focuses on gameplay aesthetics, we acknowledge that appreciation of art and judgment of taste [18]. Since the
this is not always the key component of the experience of beginning of the 20th century the number of art styles has
the game; people may play games as a means to get to exploded in number (including e.g. dadaism, cubism,
know each other, or to spend time with their children, futurism) which changed the view on aesthetics; every art
seeing them improve. direction described its own aesthetic ideals and views, often
in stark contrast to each other [9,29,31]. Even so, Dutton
Even so, our focus of study is on the game artifact, and the has described 7 universal factors of aesthetics (retold in
gameplay it provides. Although game research can also be [25]): expertise, non-utilitarian pleasure, style, criticism,
based upon studying gamers or the gaming activity [4], the imitation, special focus, imagination.
choice of games is in line with previous aesthetical research

Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory. Proceedings of DiGRA 2009

© 2009Authors & Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). Personal and educational classroom use of this paper is allowed,
commercial use requires specific permission from the author.
Aesthetics in Games Any work focusing on how people experience games can
That games have inherent strong aesthetic possibilities can arguably be considered to be at least partly concerned with
easily be argued by noting the similarities between the aesthetics. The attitude of the gamer towards one’s locus of
components used in definitions of games and aesthetics; manipulation, or Focus Loci [3], has been identified as a
several of Dutton’s factors are covered. Describing games way for gamers to direct their game experience towards
as representing for instance “a subset of reality” [7] relates narrative or ludic stances [2]. In the context of gameplay
to how games typically imitate a portion of reality and aesthetics, this points towards one way to separate
require imagination of both designers and gamers to gameplay aesthetics from other types of aesthetics in
participate in the activity – similarly to how art is often games. Genres and similar concepts have been used by
defined, cf. [29]. Additionally, the non-utilitarian aspect of academia, press and user communities alike to group and
games is clearly argued in Suits definition [27] that playing describe games, in a way seemingly related to game
a game is “the voluntary effort to overcome unnecessary aesthetics. Wolf [32] identifies 42 genres in computer and
obstacles”. This view is also echoed by those who use the video games while the boardgamegeek website [9] uses a
“flow” concept [8] to describe gameplay since this implies similar amount to classify card and board games. Although
autotelic properties. Notions of art as being something set these give insight into specific details about game designs
apart from everyday life also have an equivalent in theories they also risk placing the same game in a lot of different
of game and play, e.g. in Huizinga’s “Magic Circle” [15] groups (e.g. mixing mechanical categorizes like bluffing
and special instances of Goffman’s “frames” [11]. Just like with thematic ones like Space Exploration). Although
artists, game designers are recognized for their expertise, problematic, these types of categorizations can help
e.g. Will Wright, Sid Meier, Reiner Knizia, and Wolfgang understand the experience of playing the games thus
Kramer. Finally, it goes without saying that games receive categorized, but for the purpose of discussing aesthetics of
criticism through press reviews, forums and prizes such as gameplay genres runs the risk of occluding gameplay
Game Developers Choice Awards and Spiel des Jahres. details with other details, e.g. game themes.
Given this framing it may be surprising that little game Another way to approach how people experience games is
research have explicitly discussed aesthetics. One may to create different categories based upon their preferred
argue that this is because many specific aspects of a game’s playing style. This was first done by Bartle for text-based
aesthetics have already been covered in other areas, e.g. multiplayer online games where the categories killers,
narrative structures, visual presentation of humans or socializers, achievers, and explorers were identified [1]. In a
architectural styles. Although these may be reused for similar vein, Yee [33] conducted a study spanning more
games they do address only these specific aspects related to than 3 years and collecting data from over 5000 gamers in
games. In particular, they do not relate to the interactive graphical versions of massively multiplayer online games,
aspect of manipulating the game artifact. identified relationship, manipulation, immersion, escapism,
There are some notable exceptions to this, the first being and achievement as five distinct factors for gaming. These
Järvinen’s toolbox of concepts based upon emotion theory categories point towards different gamer preferences in
[17]. Building on several different types of emotions (play, gameplay but since they are categorizations related to
aesthetic, and preference and transfer), he describes how gamers they cannot directly be used to discuss the artifacts.
these can be raised during gaming through various parts of The fact that they have been identified from only one
games. Taking a holistic approach, his work does not category of games poses another challenge to apply them to
explicitly distinguish gameplay aesthetics from other types gameplay aesthetics generally.
of aesthetics. Secondly, Giddings and Kennedy argue that Given the above we can conclude that just as in any other
“any consideration of videogame play aesthetics must discipline, game design features its fair share of different
consider questions of agency” [10], and introduce the views on aesthetics. In this paper we build on four of them,
concept of control and cybernetic aesthetics. They identify firstly Aki Järvinen’s observation that designers need to
gameplay as being in between cybernetic feedback loops take aesthetical stances as they commit to projects since
and the original notion of aesthetics, but do not make their goals are to illicit specific emotions from players.
explicit distinctions between gameplay and play in general. Secondly, LeBlanc’s notion that game designers do use
LeBlanc [21] instead proposes a three-layered model for “tools” like game mechanics in their design in order to
understanding the gameplay experiences consisting of reach a certain aesthetic ideal. Thirdly, that these aesthetic
mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. LeBlanc stresses that ideals sometimes, but not always coincide with genre
although the mechanics can be said to always exist the classifications, which suggest further exploration. Lastly,
dynamics and aesthetics only exist while the game is being that there are different motifs for playing games, i.e.
played. However, this does not mean that designers cannot different types of players, who prefer different types of
influence the gameplay aesthetics; designers have an games, i.e. have different types of aesthetic ideals when it
intended aesthetics in mind when they design which they comes to what makes a game “good” – or not.
hope to evoke in gamers through the mechanics, by way of
the dynamics.

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GAMEPLAY PROPERTIES RELEVANT TO GAMEPLAY Rule Cohesion
AESTHETICS Here, cohesion describes how tightly integrated rules are
In this section we list properties of gameplay that seem to with each other. If no rule cannot be removed or altered
be relevant for gameplay aesthetics. This list is by no means without this resulting in large changes in gameplay, the rule
final, exhaustive or perfect, but instead reflecting the set is cohesive.
aesthetic ideals we are analyzing in the next section. As per
our research stance, the properties are primarily based in the Cohesive games are very vulnerable to poor rules and
rule structures of the games. The properties presented do in provide little room for experimentation. It can also be hard
several cases overlap each other but are described to uphold a real-life theme. On the other hand, a game
separately since they provide different entry points. lacking rule coherency can be experienced as arbitrary and
fractured. Changing rules in well-balanced games probably
Rule Consistency make them unbalanced regardless of cohesion, but for
Consistency as an aesthetic virtue is nothing new; it has cohesive games it is more likely that the effects are
been an aesthetic value in (western) art for thousands of immediately apparent.
years [9,29,31]. That the rules of a game need to be
consistent, i.e. non-contradictory, can seem to be obvious. Tempting Challenge
Still, a noteworthy example of a game that toys with this Another important gameplay property is “tempting
property is Nomic (described in [13]) where the rules are challenge” [23]. Not only do games need to offer gamers a
changed during play and one of the victory conditions is to challenge, this challenge must also be interesting and on
prove that the rules are inconsistent. such a level that the gamer can overcome it, albeit not too
easily. The relation between skill and difficulty is one
Simplicity example which influences this, and can be explained
Simple, well-defined rules are easy to understand which through the concept of “flow” [8].
makes a game more accessible. Nevertheless it may not be Secondly, the challenge also has to be tempting. What
easy to play; many classical complex games such as Chess constitutes tempting of course differs between gamers.
and Go have simple rules. Novelty is one aspect; as gamers explore a game they learn
it, and once something is mastered the challenge disappears;
Use of Chance it is no longer tempting (indeed, this learning process has
The role of chance in games is a likely source of debate; been described as the raison d’être of games [19]).
some believe that chance should be limited as much as Curiosity, or the urge to beat someone’s high score can be
possible (e.g. Othello) and others prefer games with a very other aspects.
high chance component (e.g. Rock-Paper-Scissors or
Craps). Both extremes can be criticized: a game with little Meaningful Choice
or no chance may cause “analysis paralysis” [3] and it can This is closely related to Tempting Challenge; since a
be difficult for two gamers of different skill levels to play game’s level of difficulty typically increases with the
together, whereas too much chance can make the feeling of number of choices that are offered to the gamer; games
agency non-existent. without choices are not games at all. However, choices in
themselves are not enough – gamers must still feel that
Emergence there is a point in making them. Making choices meaningful
When looking at games as systems, it becomes interesting can be difficult; it’s a balance between forcing gamers to
to note whether gameplay arises as a result of specific rules make completely uninformed choices and choices based
that cover each instance of gameplay, or more general rules. upon perfect information. Meaningful Choices can be seen
In Chess, for instance, there are specific rules for how each as a part of “meaningful play” [26], but only focused on
piece moves, and a general rule saying that all pieces can be making decisions rather than on planning.
captured. General rules tend to foster emergent gameplay
since they lead to synergy effects; the general rules Varying Strategies
cooperate in creating a vast number of possible courses of While having the right amount of background information
events in the game. is important to make choices meaningful, it is also
Although emergence can occur in any significantly complex important how far into the future the effects of a choice can
games, games such as Go and Chess are archetypical be predicted. Thus, one can see a link between the
examples, having few rules and perfect information but still properties of Meaningful Choices and Varying Strategies.
generating complexity. Strategy can be seen as a series of choices, and a designer
must always be on the lookout for obvious (also known as
Whereas instance rules can be criticized for limiting gamers “degenerate”) strategies; since these, once discovered, will
too much and lacking novelty, emergent gameplay can ruin the game by removing the challenge from it. A good
quickly become difficult to have an overview of, and may example is Tic-Tac-Toe, which, once mastered, hardly can
be vulnerable to exploits and degenerate strategies. be considered an interesting game.

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Game Balance “break” the game by looking to closely for degenerate
Balance in games has two aspects. Either, it is about strategies. E.g. Hearts of Iron 2 can lead to “unhistorical
balancing gamers’ chances of winning by focusing on events” such as Germany invading Japan, but playing so is
starting conditions or on balancing gamers during disliked by some because one is not “roleplaying” how the
gameplay, e.g. by punishing the leader somehow. Or, it is nation historically behaved.
about internal balance, i.e. balancing the effect of the
different actions or components in the game. Gamer Interaction
The amount of interaction between gamers differs
Game Balance is related to Varying Strategy, since the lack
substantially between games. In addition, the type of gamer
of internal balance can force degenerate strategies and lead
interaction can differ from passive (e.g. overtaking someone
to less interesting choices.
in a race on different tracks) to friendly (e.g. trading) to
competitive (e.g. bidding) to aggressive (e.g. invading,
Minimal Excise
The amount of none-goal-related work, or excise [6], differs stealing, killing). The amount of aggression in a game
greatly between games; in a card game it can be about seems to be an important factor for many gamers,
playing a card which takes an instant, in a miniatures game regardless if they want it or prefer to avoid it. Interestingly,
the actual moving of the miniatures might take as long or some games can be skewed either way through social
longer than deciding where they should go. It may seem contracts between gamers, e.g. by agreeing to refrain from
obvious that Minimal Excise is good in a game since it warfare in Sid Meier’s Civilization IV.
minimizes the periods between when Meaningful Choices
Gamer Elimination
can be made. However, including excise can give time for
When Gamer Interaction is taken to its extreme it results in
reflection and planning and can be used to build tension.
Gamer Elimination; i.e. the exclusion of a gamer from
Computer and video games can be made to handle almost further gameplay. Many games have this as the one and
all excise. Still, some online computer games, e.g. World of only victory condition, e.g. Monopoly. In other games it is
Warcraft, have given rise to the grinding, a form of impossible for a gamer to be ousted from a game before it is
voluntary excise. Although grinding can be seen the over, e.g. Ludo. Games with gamer elimination are
opposite of Minimal Excise, it also provides the possibilities routinely criticized for letting some gamers wait while the
of always having something to do in the game and provides remaining gamers finish the game, while games without
a way of proving one’s dedication to a character and the gamer elimination are criticized because a gamer with small
game. chances to win must stay in the game to the end. Note also
that many gamers take great joy in eliminating other
Integrated Theme gamers.
Many games have explicit themes and in these cases the
gameplay experience is affected by how well the rules and Skill
theme map each other. When themes help gamers All games require a certain analytic and strategic or tactical
remember and understand rules they can improve the skill, but some games also require other skills, such as
experience by providing a consistent framing, e.g. that creativity (Balderdash), drawing (Pictionary), reactions
rectangular pieces (boats) cannot move on green spaces (Gears of War) or bluffing and empathy (Liars Dice,
(land). Therefore, almost all games with many rules have a Poker). These games can be differentiated from others since
theme – without it, it is impossible for gamers to remember it is hard to give instructions on how to play successfully;
the rules. telling someone to “draw better” is hardly helpful.
Skill-based games contain an inbuilt imbalance, since some
Accurate Simulation
Some games have Accurate Simulation as an explicit design are more skilled than others, but the required skill can
goal. In this, it is a much more exact version of Integrated usually be practiced. Most skill-based games have simple
Theme intensely focused on the coupling between a gamer’s rules, which can make them appealing even to
choices and their outcomes – a simulation is only accurate inexperienced gamers.
if the gamers consider potential actions in the same way as
Micro Management
decision makers do in whatever is being simulated. Further,
Mostly an issue in strategy computer games, micro
the outcomes of decisions in a game must be thematically
management can sometimes become excessive due to the
believable, which explains why some dislike the possibility
amount and level of choices presented, resulting in large
of combat between tanks and chariots in Sid Meier’s
amounts of low-level decision making. This is, in a sense
Civilization IV. Making rule-sets thematically believable
the opposite to Minimal Excise, which is why some gamers
increases with complex worlds, especially if allowing open
deride it, saying that the choices presented to a gamer
gameplay e.g. World of Warcraft and Fallout 3.
should be appropriate to the level of the gamer in the
It is worth noting however, that some games rely upon an imagined “chain of command” while others consider this a
implicit understanding that gamers should not attempt to Skill which really sifts the good gamers from the bad.

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Limited Play Time fair since they aim entertaining the children and at the same
Many games have play time that is somehow limited, either time not bore the adult participants to tears. Use of chance
because the game (or a session of it, as in a role playing is very common in games of this approach, e.g. Ludo,
campaign) typically takes x minutes to play, or because the Monopoly, and Chutes and Ladders. Minimal Excise is
rules state that it ends after a certain time, as in Space Alert. easily achievable due to the simple rules while Rule
Some games, e.g. Lego Star Wars, allow one gamer to drop Cohesion is not in focus (e.g. by having special rules that
in and out of the game without significantly ruining the are randomly invoked through cards). The primary means
other gamers’ gameplay. of Game Balance comes from the multitude of randomness
Games where excessive planning gives advantages may used although internal balancing and avoidance of positive
lead to irritation from other gamers or lead to “analysis feedback loops are often not considered. Accurate
paralysis.”[3] Limited gameplay time can also be used for Simulation is difficult to instantiate in this approach due to
activities inside a game to create stress and tension, e.g. the simple rules while the property of Emergence and Skill
when gamers note that time is running out. However the is actively avoided to fit all potential gamers. The heavy
latter may also result in gamers giving up before the game reliance on chance typically makes games of this approach
ends. lack strategy and therefore also limits aspects of Meaningful
Choice and Tempting Challenge. Gamer interaction is
AESTHETIC IDEALS OF GAMEPLAY DESIGN typically destructive but only possible due to random
Below, we present a number of aesthetic ideals which we factors making it socially acceptable (e.g. Ludo). Even if
have found in gameplay design. The idea to categorize this may lead to Gamer Elimination this is typically offset
games in different ways in relation to the designer’s by the Limited Play Time and can actually help enforce it.
intention or standpoint is not completely new. For instance
Pottering as Aesthetic Ideal
board game designers talk about approaching the design of
a game from theme or mechanics [23, p.83]. This approach takes its name from the activity described as
“encompasses the kinds of things frittered between (usually
The aesthetic ideals presented here are however closer in leisure time) with little or no purpose” [50]. Examples of
related to “movements” within the art world than genre this approach include Harvest Moon and The Sims, Sim City
classifications. Being concepts not formally defined, the and early Railroad Tycoon series. Typically pottering
aesthetic ideals have blurry borders and the descriptions games have rich diegetic worlds with Integrated Themes
state the typical gameplay properties relevant to create the and believable if not Accurate Simulations. These worlds
certain aesthetic, rather than an explicit list of requirements. provide varying strategies by having many possibilities of
Note that some games are used as examples in several interaction, but the designs depend on gamers setting their
ideals, this since they are so complex that they provide own Tempting Challenges and thereby make choices
different types of aesthetic ideals. meaningful. Excise and Micro Management are endorsed
rather than avoided since they provide ample opportunities
Although some of the aesthetic ideals we describe are more
for pottering. If Emergence appears it is more often the
or less established within the gaming community, others are
effect of gamer skill then game design. Being primarily
not. This is also a similarity with art movements; some are
solitary activities, games in this approach have very little or
created by artists and proclaimed in manifestos while others
no Gamer Interaction. This also means that the approach
are described by researchers (sometimes after the
typically lets gamers have long or unlimited gameplay time
movement has faltered).
and lets gamers play whenever they want.
Caveat: Fundamentals Pottering games may seem to counter the idea of what
There may seem to be an underlying fundamental design games are since in many cases avoiding losing is easy and
approach which all aesthetic ideals build upon. In this the games usually lack an explicit goal or winning
approach one strives for a game featuring Rule Consistency, condition. Although they can be played as regular games,
Simplicity, Tempting Challenge, Meaningful Choices, another attraction is that they provide activity that one can
Varying Strategies, Game Balance and Minimal Excise. come back to intermittently and set new goals for each play
Still, many popular games lack one or several properties, session.
especially Light Games (as described below). However,
this approach is so general it gives little information for Emergence as Aesthetic Ideal
both designers and researchers, other properties must be The emergence design approach is exemplified by Go,
added to skew the game towards an aesthetic ideal that Chess, Xiangqi, and Othello. As the name suggest the focus
appeals to certain players by providing a Tempting lies on the property of Emergence but typically also stresses
Challenge for them. Simplicity and Rule Consistency as well, since these
highlight the emergence present. Although Integrated
Light Games as Aesthetic Ideal Themes may help explain the basic components they
“Light” games (i.e. children’s games or simpler family seldom translate into the emergent aspects of the game.
games) need to be easy to learn, fast to play, and seemingly Paying little interest to theme makes it difficult for this

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approach to provide Accurate Simulations of any Game Balance, but the statistical occurrence of these can be
phenomena. Trying to achieve maximum emergence from seen as rewards for perseverance.
minimal rules and means typically excludes Micro
Management, promoting Minimal Excise. However, the Player Adaptability as Aesthetic Ideal
ability of predicting effects of actions, which may be seen This approach values gameplay where gamers constantly
as being able to appreciate the emergence, is often a gamer have to adjust their plans and strategies. While featuring
Skill and could be seen as a form of pre-action excise. This Simplicity, they tend to have slightly larger rule sets than
is often equal to exploring Varying Strategies, and showing emergent games since the Tempting Challenge lies more on
that one can do this better than one’s opponent is the main having a deep understanding of the rules than on having the
way to provide Tempting Challenges. This is related to that ability to traverse decision trees deeply. To enable this Rule
this type of games tend to rely on a high degree of Consistency and Rule Cohesion are important while
aggressive Gamer Interaction, typically having Gamer Emergence and Gamer Interaction play the role of making
Elimination as the main goal. The game rules typically do choices context dependent. Gamer interaction is typically
not feature Limited Play Time, but since gamer planning is on the friendly end of the scale since showing one’s Skill is
essential for the game this is actually limited in gaming more important that defeating opponents. Use of Chance
rules, especially for tournaments. can be used to create unpredictability and varied game
instances but only in limited amounts since too much
It is worth noting that the most well-known games in the chance obfuscates the gamers’ skills. Examples of games in
approach have evolved rather than been designed. One this approach include Race for the Galaxy, Magic the
reason for this may be that it is difficult to achieve Game Gathering, and raiding in World of Warcraft.
Balance without extensive testing. Many of the minor
exceptions from Rule Cohesion, which is an important part This approach emphasizes being able to use emergent
of the approach, are probably to fine tune emergence and features of the game mechanics to one’s advantage as well
meaningful choices. Examples of such exceptions include as being able to detect important but subtle changes in the
the Ko (and super Ko) rule in Go and the special moves En game state. Varying Strategies and replayability are key to
Passant, Promotion, and Castling in Chess. the aesthetics since this allows gamers to show that they can
adjust their actions to different contexts.
Meditation as Aesthetic Ideal
Games belonging to this approach offer engrossment in Reenactment as Aesthetic Ideal
small tasks requiring immediate attention; sometimes the Some game designs strive to create believable variations of
entire game is about effective Micro Management, as in historical events. The main category of games belonging to
Tetris. Using Simplicity and Limited Play Time they provide this approach are wargames, e.g. Operational Combat
private moments of relaxation from other activities, or, if Series: DAKII, EuroFront, and Conflict of Heroes:
played over and over again, a form of active meditation. Awakening the Bear, but other examples are 1829 (and the
Use of Chance typically provides variation between game whole 18xx series), the Europa Universalis series, and
instances while having a Theme or Accurate Simulation is History of the World.
not necessary. Examples of such games include Zoo
Designing in this approach poses delicate design problems
Keeper, Free Cell and Solitaire.
between historical correctness and Game Balance. This due
The meditative qualities of this approach relies on gamers to military engagements rarely being balanced and seldom
achieving flow experiences, so the Tempting Challenge is it is clear that different strategies were available to the
often Skill-related, be they based on reflexes, pattern decision makers. The theme often dictates aggressive
recognition, or analysis skills. These games are typically Gamer Interaction and Gamer Elimination. Simplicity and
about problem-solving, and to make this sustainable over Rule Cohesion are trumped by the property of Integrated
time they are typically built on small rule sets with Rule Theme and Accurate Simulation but are otherwise adhered
Consistency and Rule Cohesion. These rules, and the typical to. Use of Chance may create variations of the historical
lack of Emergence, mean that the possibility for Varying events and may illustrate the unpredictability of military
Strategies is small and making a Meaningful Choice is often plans. Reenactment games contain a surprising amount of
the same as making the right choice. This makes Minimal Excise in the form of rolling dice, counting odds, consulting
Excise critical to game designs in this approach, but tables, etc. Excise and Micro Management also exist in the
interestingly enough the generalized gameplay activity can form of moving markers and figures; providing Meaningful
be seen as exactly these activities. Many of them are also Choices at the same level of granularity as the decision
unbalanced in the sense that it can be very hard or makers at the time had available.
impossible to achieve an ultimate win, with success
typically measured by high score lists. The Use of Chance Camaraderie as Aesthetic Ideal
can also provide certain game sessions that are much easier The camaraderie approach focuses on how gamers can
than others, which can be seen as a problem of internal achieve more through working as a group than is possible
individually. This gives rise to a limited form of Emergence
and naturally Gamer Interaction is vital, including that of a

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purely social nature. This approach is somewhat more simply the act of matching one’s understanding of the
abstract than the other approaches in that it only deals with game’s gameplay with one’s perception of another person’s
a subset of the gameplay, and is often a complement to aesthetical ideals. This answer presumes a (maybe implicit)
another approach. Arkham Horror, Shadows over Camelot, model of what gameplay is wished for; these are the models
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, World of Warcraft, and the of the type developed by Bartle [1] and Yee [33]. In this
Battlefield series are examples of how this approach can be way the ideals can be seen as a counter model to those
instantiated in games. describing user preferences but that together can explain
matches or mismatches in expectation and experience.
Games of this approach are often designed so that gamers
Ideals also provide a way of explaining why one may have
have functionally different roles which also provide
grown bored with a game (e.g. from it no longer supporting
Varying Strategies on a personal level in addition to what
Tempting Challenge, flow [8] or learning [19]) but still
exist on a team level. Rule Cohesion and Game Balance in
consider it “good” – one appreciates its gameplay aesthetics
camaraderie games have to take into consideration the
and acknowledges that it has the possibility of being fun for
different roles available; if a role is not necessary it is likely
somebody else.
that someone choosing that will not feel as an important
part of the group. These property of Skill can manifest on Of course the ideals presented are not a complete list; there
two different levels for these games; on a level of being may well be several others. Additionally, the ideals are not
able to perform within a certain role and on being able to all-encompassing; any game that can be said to belong to an
“read” what role is required and taking that role. If Gamer ideal will not per default suit someone who likes the ideal.
Elimination exists in the game this is usually mitigated by Like genres they are sweeping categories that provide
Limited Play Time for each game session, since the group general suggestions but need to be complemented by a
feeling might otherwise be endangered. range of other aspects (e.g. theme, medium, use context) to
come to a reliable conclusion about a game’s suitability for
Meta-game as Aesthetic Ideal a given gaming situation. Although the validity of
This approach lies in having a gameplay which brings value individual ideals and the gameplay properties they build
to activities that take place before or after actual gameplay. upon can be explored in future empirical studies, the idea of
Although these activities are not gameplay themselves, the ideals can independently help develop the expressiveness in
aesthetics of the gameplay lies in how it encourages the discussions regarding gameplay aesthetics and game
activities and gives the activities a raison d’être. Examples experiences.
of such meta-game activities include deck building in
Magic the gathering, prop and character creation in live ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
action roleplaying scenarios, miniature painting and army We wish to thank Jussi Holopainen, Karl-Petter Åkesson,
building in Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and planning and Niklas Kärrstrand, Johan Redström, and Magnus Lundgren
training for raids in World of Warcraft. It seems that an for valuable input. This work was performed within the
Integrated Theme promotes meta-gaming since it provides integrated project TA2 (http://www.ta2-project.eu) which is
more identification and immersion than an abstract game. funded by the EU's Seventh Framework Programme, grant
agreement number 214793. The authors gratefully
Planning gameplay and creating game artifacts are two
acknowledge the European Commission's financial support
common ways to connect gameplay to meta-game
and the productive collaboration with the other TA2
activities. Games with emergent features can support the
consortium partners.
former while the latter typically is achieved by having the
property of a gamer-created Integrated Theme. Limited Play
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